31 December 2017


ringing in the new year with a big, bright moon (see crane in lower right corner for scale)

29 December 2017


The downside to travelling to Italy in the winter is the seemingly endless grey sky.

Here's a selection of my favourite scenes. Otherwise photos are scattered over Facebook and tumblr.






28 December 2017

2017 Clothing Purchases

Let's see how I fared:

  1. ASOS navy pleated skirt: I haven't bought an item too small for the longest time but this is not the skirt to wear if eating is involved. The fabric is also quite wrinkle prone. Sigh my unicorn skirt still awaits :(
  2. MUJI shirts: two striped long sleeves because I wanted the clover embroidery very badly, and a collarless flannel shirt. Very happy with all three purchases, Muji's clothing are worth the cost premium, although mom generously paid for this.
  3. Many pretty things on Taobao: skirts (including another try at the unicorn pleated skirt), dresses, shirts, a pair of shorts, hair accessories, and lots of socks and tights. My success rate is actually quite high now that I've identified and stuck to stores that I trust. Aside from basics, it's hard to resist buying from Taobao where I can find a) style that I like b) sizes that fit and c) cheap. While the quality is nothing to write home about, the clothes I've bought have actually lasted a long time. 
  4. THEORY white silk shirt (thrifted): with Everlane no longer stocking their initial silk shirt style, I need to find alternatives. This is alright, but still too sheer for wearing without a cami. Also was still pricy since it was a new, unworn item, again mom generously paid for this. 
  5. ZARA KIDS green trench coat: fitting into Zara kids clothing is the best (or worst) discovery of the year. The kids line is so much cheaper! But I refuse to support Zara in principle so it's a tiresome mental struggle to not buy anymore items from the brand.
  6. FJALLRAVEN kanken backpack: wanted a slightly larger backpack with laptop compartment since I'm required to bring laptop to class at Bath. Mom generously offered to gift this.
  7. UNIQLO tee: I didn't have a close-fitting tee before, and have worn this decently often.
  8. COMMON PROJECTS white archilles sneakers: 110% Jeff's influence, but at least I never need to think about white sneakers again. 
  9. ADIDAS stan smith: this went on sale before the CPs so here I am with two pairs of sneakers. Currently wearing this pair.
  10. JCREW chino shorts and pants: the shorts are to replace my super old AE pair with a permanently wrinkled cuff whereas the pants are to replace another super old pair of Uniqlo white jeans. Unfortunately the pants are a bit big, but I prefer to think of that as just low-rise and relaxed fit.
  11. SKAGEN watch: I'm a sucker for starry sky themed items and it matches well with Jeff's watch. This is definitely an impulse purchase. I still haven't fully developed the habit to wear watches, but I've definitely started to follow Hondikee and want better ones "orz
  12. AERIE bralettes: this is borderline want/need, and they always seem on sale @_@
Overall, the purchases have been good in terms of my satisfaction with the aesthetics and cost-per-wear (with a couple of Taobao items being the exception). I'm fortunate enough to still have parents buying me stuff, but hopefully by the same time next year I'll be buying them gifts. Not sure how I feel about the quantity of items, on one hand it's not a lot so I feel okay, but on the other hand I bought a lot of stuff during PEY so I could've done better? Most of the items are bought in response to summer travel plans and also moving the UK, so at least they're not thoughtless purchases. I have a couple of related new years resolutions, but that'll be its own post. 

27 December 2017


Another trip, another map to my collection:

and of course the first meal we have after getting back is noodles:

a new variation: hot oil green onion noodles (with some dried shrimp)

21 December 2017


Happy winter solstice featuring Epic High ft. Lee Hi:

I like the photos the video chose :D

02 December 2017

please stop for a moment for me

More Epik High as I rush to finish assignments:

The ballad is a bit soft for my liking, but holy are the lyrics for the rap parts good:
I used to have dreams, out of fear of becoming ordinary
Now I envy those who are ordinary
As I stand all alone in the rain
If I don’t grow, growing pains are nothing but pain
As time goes by, I grow more afraid
My heart and two feet are running, but I’ve forgotten what for
My dream has become nothing but a burden
My only hope is to leave it behind and run
It eggs me on to take just one more step
Once I look up, I’m facing a cliff
Looking back, I see long rows of expectations
Pretending to support me, they push me from behind
I’ve wanted to give my heart a break one day
But it’s become entangled within the numbers
The world puts out a calculated hand
I don’t want to hold onto it, but I’m more afraid of having nothing in my hands
Is time really the only thing that keeps moving, even when you hold onto it?
lyrics via Epik High Translations


This makes me miss Kyoto so much :(

30 November 2017


What I've been up to on top of school:


24 November 2017


I'm glad that I'm in the UK since the voltage difference stops me from buying any kitchen appliances, that and no income which stops purchases of kitchen non-appliances.

But in the spirit of the many international shopping events in November, here's my wish list for when I finally have a kitchen to call my own:

  • Dutch ovens: perhaps a medium Le Crueset and a little matte black Staub dedicated to cooking lentils because this post made a huge impression on me. 
  • Salad spinner: because its really no fun wiping off water after shaking leafy greens to dry
  • Food processor: I can learn how to work butter into flour by hand, and perhaps I'm actually well suited for that job because my hands are perpetually cold, but I trust a food processor to do the same job better. I can also improve my knife skills by shredding a lot of vegetables for slaw, but so far I haven't done so...or even used my mandolin so perhaps I'll actually get around to making slaws if I can just grate it with a machine. Then I think of all the times when my mom cuts thin batons of carrots and radish for 凉拌三丝 and feel bad about not having her knife skills. Manual chopping is also my excuse for wanting a kicks usuba. But also hummus!
  • A giant heavy mortar and pestle: for grinding moist stuff, and a spice grinder for grinding dry stuff
  • Vitamix blender: I have serious doubts whether this is needed, but I also want green smoothies without paying $10. I wonder what's the payback period...
  • Kitchen Aid stand mixer: as therapeutic as creaming butter and sugar is, my arms have insufficient power to actually do a good job. I fully expect to see improvements in my baked goods. A pasta attachment would be a nice bonus. 
  • Ice cream maker: my cumulative desire for one increases each time I see David Lebovitz post a new recipe, and also this book.
  • Sous vide machine: for yoghurt making! perfect soft boiled eggs! steak! 
  • Saucier: I was a non-believer until I made something that actually required good stirring. 
  • Torch: creme brûlée 
and basically everything on Stella's baking equipment list, and and this bread baking list. I need to actively stop myself from reading baking blogs on my instapaper because I'm not a masochist. Good thing Bath has Bertinet, their bread and pastry keeps me sane while I'm away from my own oven. 

Plus lots of deli containers (and Cambros?) for storage, jars for pickling, and okay I'll stop now.



23 November 2017


I'm intensely missing Kyoto as I scroll through photos of the autumn leaves as seem as temple interiors :(

But Bath is nice too.

22 November 2017


^ stolen from one of the many posts I've consulted on crepe recipe. I also *just* realized that the 葱油饼 that my family makes (not the yeasted bread kind you'll get if you order at a restaurant) is practically a crepe batter. I've always been delegated with cooking them growing up. We usually eat them with congee and a couple of other dishes.

This post is most definitely about crepes, but also other pan-made goodies such as pancakes, and flatbreads. All the dough-y goodness I can make without an oven! Unbelievable that it took me 2 months to remember this entire category of food.

My hit list:
  • Regular crepes and buckwheat ones if I correctly recall seeing buckwheat flour at Sainsbury. I can also easily bring these to school as a snack. Filled with gooseberry jam ofc, ricotta & honey, stewed fruits, sweet condensed milk, duche de leche, salted caramel sauce, creme fraiche, mascarpone cheese, ham & cheese (and fried egg). Also finally an excuse to try out speculoos spread. 
  • Basically most of the pancakes from Smitten Kitchen's archives: fluffy buttermilk, apple, sour cream, corn, carrot cake, summer berries, winter squash. One more from Serious Eats: bacon, cheddar and corn. If I'm feeling keen, try to consolidate these into a master+modification pancake recipe. 
  • Flatbread. I thought about naan, but I figure a tandoor is too different from a non-stick pan. 
A realistic schedule would be...1 per every non-lecture week? That would last until about summer. A long but delicious project :) 

21 November 2017


I'm spoiled for dairy products being in the UK. Milk is cheap and delicious. Yoghurt is cheap and delicious. There's so many cream products. And above all, there's all the cheese. Fun fact: cheddar originated in Somerset (the county Bath is in).

I've so far only gone to one cheesemonger in Bath (Nibbles Cheese) where I took my first step down the rabbit hole with these:

Keen's Cheddar

I thought this one is just good. An obvious improvement to supermarket cheddar in every aspect, but also not outstanding in any aspect. Would not re-purchase but it sets me up to appreciate the following 2 cheese.

Wyfe of Bath (gyuyere style)

I didn't know about this at all until I was at the counter where this was featured as the cheese of the week. A little note said that this is made 20km from Bath, of course I get sucked into buying a piece of the hyperlocal cheese.
This taste obviously different, predominately grassy and maybe a bit nutty? It taste like a direct translation of the grass that the cows ate, which I know doesn't sound very appetizing but it is. I didn't expect to enjoy the grassy taste as I'm not a fan of green teas, but man I really like this and will repurchase.

The best for last:

In short, the first excellent (as in objectively a different tier) cheese I've eaten. The texture is creamy (must be room temperature to fully appreciate), yet there's granules or crystals that adds a delightful crunch. It's fluffy and basic food blog language, but also very true in this case. I recall reading that good aged parmigiana-reggiano have that granular structure, will have to scout one out in Bologna and see. The flavour is best described as intense. I tend to eat bite after bite of Wyfe of Bath, but only take nibbles of this cheese. I imagine that a sesame brittle and cold grapes would go well with this, but I've literally never paired cheese before. Will definitely be buying more of this and trying other Snowdonia cheeses. I'll for sure be reminiscing about this (and dark chocolate digestive McVities) when I leave. Not sure if it's harder to find a Canadian stockist or to bring back a 2kg wheel.

20 November 2017


You know what's even better than braised greens? Braised turnips...with some greens. But the turnips are the star.
a touch of mustards seeds is my addition, good call

I don't know whats a good comparison to the texture of braised turnips except for daikon oden, which is practically the same thing. It's not to the point of custard-y as it gradually collapse in your mouth as you bite down. Succulent maybe? It also doesn't take forever to soften, maybe half an hour (I wasn't paying much attention), unlike swede ugh. Too bad turnips aren't as cheap as carrots or parsnips, although it is still a cheap ingredient. Hopefully co-op has a good price on these, and if radishes are still on sale that'd make a good addition. Turnips are the best looking tho:

the color hnnng


Also went against my better judgement and made a coconut milk based curry. I'm not the biggest fan of coconut milk based curries. I do like the ingredient in desserts though.

recipe via thekitcn

Side note: I still suck at making easy over eggs. Can't find the balance of heating the pan/oil hot enough to get crisp egg whites vs not overcooking the yolk. I usually get the former right and not the latter, but today turned out the opposite. Sigh more practice is needed, good thing Iceland eggs are insanely cheap (unfortunately chicken welfare is a lower priority than cost atm).

I was very much regretting my decision while cooking this dish as the curry tasted supremely coconut-y. But once cooked through and cooled a bit, the taste mellowed out and became more balanced with the other flavours. Yesterday's portion reminds me of khao soi, not because that they're actually similar, but rather its the only coconut milk based dish that I eat periodically. It got even better after sitting overnight in the fridge, today's portion is actually to my liking. Next time I would increase the spiciness by switching to my dried thai pepper and sourness by adding the juice from the half a lemon that I reserved (deviated from the recipe of adding juice and zest, I just threw in a scored lemon half. Got the idea from Eastern Eye's lentil soup where there was lemon slices cooked in the soup. I can taste a hint of bitterness from the pith which I like). I do prefer the thick texture resulting from using split chickpeas cook very well done when served with rice.


Later edit: this would make the perfect shakshuka sauce! I've put off making it forever since peppers are so damn expensive in Toronto. The only problem is that I think a crispy fried egg goes the best with this sauce because of the textural contrast. So maybe I'm just complicating things and should just fry some eggs and top it.

19 November 2017


After writing reports totalling 13500 words from my first four courses, I have a pretty decent methodology down. Also thanks to ENV221/222 and APS1299 (I already forgot my prof's name but will always remember his feedback on academic writing as the single most useful comment I've ever received on an assignment) as well as that one parking garage assessment report that Josh and I had to write in 3 days for improving my writing. One more thanks for the librarian that taught me to use Zotero to manage my references. It was not fun when it took me more time to prepare references than writing the report body for ESP BC.

The key for me is to have a lot of inactive time: at the beginning for ideas to incubate, and at the end to have a fresh perspective each time I edit. This translates to starting the assignment as soon as possible, which makes for a very hectic lecture week.

The process generally goes:
  1. Find one or a few comprehensive literature reviews and read them to provides a good overview of what I don't yet know but also so I can steal their references.
  2. Make an outline of the report 
  3. Find peer reviewed papers according to the outline. I really have no idea if I'm devoting enough or too much time to lit review, but I generally dedicate 2 days to search & read the abstracts or go through about 5 pages of catalogue search results. Staying organized at this stage will be tremendously helpful, I'll rename the papers that I download with the primary author's last name and a couple of keywords. It really is the worst to be checking through 20 - 30 PDFs to find this one thing you want to cite. 
  4. Start writing the first draft concurrently with reading the papers on specific topics. I do start with writing the intro even though I've heard advice to not start with it. Intro formula = general statement > link to topic > state scope > list of sections to follow. While writing the body, I can usually start with what I've learned from the lit review papers and then read the papers on the specific topic once I start writing about the topic. This is again to avoid searching through my downloads. I'll color code papers that I've read and written about vs ones that I didn't end up using. 
  5. Since my first draft is always over the word limit, I go back and minimize the amount of direct quoting since a) its not contributing much and b) they're generally wordy. I do keep snippets of when they describe their results so I don't accidentally distort their findings. 
  6. Take a break for a day, then go back and reorganize paragraphs / sentences so the structure is logical and there is some semblance of flow. I've largely gotten over my bad habit of being being stuck at writing the first draft because I want it to be better than it needs to be (my editing skills >> writing skills). But that leaves a really really shitty first draft, which makes this the mot important task. Its not uncommon for lots of deletions and rewriting here. I recall one time where only ~20% of my original draft remained :'D 
  7. Subsequent edits are moreso for style, clarity in sentence structure, consistent use of terminology, and grammar if I manage to concentrate enough to pick out my mistakes. 
  8. Last edit I'll have the computer read my report out loud with hopes that a different form of communication (versus visually reading) will catch any remaining mistakes. 
  9. Convert to PDF and breath a sigh of relief. 

18 November 2017


Dal cooking continues with Budget Byte's Dal Nirvana:

I took a lot of liberties with her recipe:

  • Red instead of brown lentils: I did debate lugging back another 2kg bag of brown lentils, but figured using the red I have will reduce cooking time.
  • Soaked the lentils for about an hour with boiling water instead of cooking it in another pot so the whole dish will only require one pot.
  • Upped amounts of garlic and cumin, and added some garam masala. Next time I'll use even more of these.
  • Swapped a chopped fresh (actually demi-dried since it's been in my fridge for so long) chile for cayenne pepper
  • Stirred some yogurt instead of evaporated milk to avoid buying another ingredient. I am tempted to buy cheap tea bags every time I go grocery shopping so I can make milk tea, but to my surprise tea bags (PG tips or Yorkshire) aren't super cheap. Maybe I'll make a trip to Lidl one day.
Overall tasty for a very bare bone recipe (surprised at no onions). I'm cooking the remaining portions of the rest of the day to see if very, very long cooking time improves the taste. If it works for Dishroom, it'll probably work for this too. Compared to the previous lentil with a lot of warming spices, this one is about the contrast between the acidic tomato and creamy dairy.

17 November 2017


The rare couple of days when the sun sets when class ends:

16 November 2017

things done changed

This is my favourite song from the album, hands down. It's been my commute music for weeks now.

Loving these lines (via Epik High Translations):
Though nothing lasts forever, I’ll wave to you across the river of time.
Some things don’t change.
Though nothing lasts forever, I’ll wait, across the wall of time.
If you call my name again, I’ll come back.
If you think of me once in a while, I’ll come back.
If you shed tears for me, I’ll come back.
If you leave a place in your heart for me, I’ll come back.
Back to you.

14 November 2017


Midnight cashew brittles
I suppose my form of yolo-ing is a lot more tame.

It literally took making brittles at close to midnight on a day when I woke up at 5:30am to make me realize that hey, I'm in a high stress state right now.

Side note: I've always semi-joking said that creaming butter and sugar is my therapy, but this turns out to be more true than I expected given that not baking is straining me. Or is it just my sugar consumption?

Side note 2: I once read somewhere the different between stress and strain when used in the mental health context and recall it to match well with their usage in civ, however my sleep deprived brain right now can't make the connection so I doubt I'm using them appropriately. I am also rambling.

It is hardly something to complain about, or perhaps particularly justified, as I've put myself in this situation. Stress via deciding to go on vacation early, so gotta finish assignments early. Strain via deciding not to bring baking equipment (particularly my scale!!! Technically not necessary, but pride won't let me go back to volumetric measurements...except that I did for brittles) and not braving the use of uk ovens with badly marked gas lines. The solution is for myself to chill and go for a crappier mark on my assignments, and suck it up and bake. Or devise a plan to get a couple of ingredients while in London and find some more recipes for making candy (hurray I brought my thermometer at least) and force myself to get more efficient at critical thinking and report writing. It's clear which one I went with.


Brittle making notes:
  • Ratio of ⅓ cup mix-ins with ¼ cup sugar
  • Consider the packing factor of mix-ins, will try a combination of cashews (creaminess taste good), sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds to maximize mix-ins to sugar
  • Taste very much depend on toasting mix-ins beforehand, adding some salt, but most importantly caramelizing the sugar to an appropriate level.

13 November 2017


Originally I felt daunted at having to go without roasted vegetables for autumn and winter, but the constraint is helping me explore more braised vegetables:

recipe via Food and Wine, with beets, egg and sausage

To be honest I'm not a fan of the inclusion of fruits, the apple adds too much sweetness and the pear doesn't add to the dish. I also didn't know that the swede would take much longer than the carrot and parsnip, so the prolonged cooking time turned everything else too mushy to look good. Perhaps I'm not good at roasting root veg (aside from potatoes), but braised carrots taste sooo much better than roasted ones. Would like to try this Moroccan carrot recipe (with parsnips too) next and this sweet potato braise with milk too.


Bonus turmeric milk, because waking up late is best paired with nourishing breakfasts:
recipe via Persian Mama

Now I just need to wait until I have an empty jar, make a concentrate of the spices with fresh turmeric (Sainsbury both surprise and disappoint me with their stock) and dilute as needed.

12 November 2017

Castle Combe

Dreams of English villages part 2.

Apparently it's one of the top 10 most picturesque villages? Very quaint...only 2 streets haha.

I will always be in admiration of their gardening skills. In fact I found this one stockist for a particular brand of Japanese knifes in a random rural location...and the shop turns out to primarily sell landscaping shears.

11 November 2017


Dreams of English villages part 1.

Stop 1: Talbot Photography Museum, where film processing was invented!

 Vintage camera galore

These prints (actually daguerreotypes, which was not invented by Talbot) made me realize why people always talk about how amazing metallic paper is.


Stop 2: Lacock Abbey, a prime example of medieval convent


Stop 3: ice cream against my better judgement (its raining and cold) but I'm a sucker for local products

Honestly it was too cold to tell how good this is, but nostalgia points for eating with a wooden paddle.

08 November 2017


Next in the soup series: zuppa toscana via Budget Bytes

with Bertinet Bakery baguette, which is not that much more expensive than grocery store bread 

This soup taught me to love cream soup and appreciate smoked paprika, so much so that I added another pinch near the end. Other modifications I've made include adding thyme and rosemary since my sausages aren't Italian, using sweet cabbage because that was literally the only non-lettuce greens that my local co-op sold (ugh their produce section is so disappointing), and using half water half whole milk. I should've reserved the whole milk until the end and just add it to warm up, I foolishly added it at the beginning so it curdled while the soup simmered for a long time so the beans can soften. I'm also disappointed in these dried beans from Sainsbury, they never even approach a creamy texture. But despite all that, a yummy and comforting soup.

06 November 2017

run for the hills

Chugging away at assignments so I can leave for Italy early. I did well on the report for my first course so hopefully this motivation will last, especially since Integrated Design is what I imagine the combined capstone with architecture would be.

05 November 2017


Daylight >> fighting with artificial lighting, I do wish my window sill is just a tad bit wider so I can avoid the frame.

The status of lentils in /r/cheaphealthyeats is like how CDBs were circle jerked in /r/MFA back when I first discovered the subreddit. This is by no means an insult because I am / was completely in agreement.

Lentils via Matters of the Belly (I love how her recipes include warming spices, the cinnamon here is very tasty), peas via thekitchn.
The pairing with beets and radish is neutral, I usually eat the beets at the beginning since I love their earthy sweetness, why have I not been eating them, smh. Radish...is something I'm still getting use to, because I want to feel chic by smearing some outrageous butter on a lengthwise halved radish and sprinkling some flakey sea salt from a Brittany village on top (one day I'll visit Brittany, one day!).

04 November 2017


It'll take some getting use to sun setting at 4pm "orz

A rare time when I like the results from my phone moreso than my camera. The phone picked up the stains on the window which adds a textural interest to the sky.

01 November 2017

taking my time

I know of Logic through Jeff explaining his Rick and Morty appearance, he's pretty cool:

A hopeful song to accompany report writing.

30 October 2017


I swear to not make a new dish at night again, not worth struggling with horrendous lighting. It makes me sad to present such a bad photo of such a yummy dish:

Squash pasta with braised greens + egg! 

The squash pasta is by no means an original recipe, but rather I came up with my version first and then found out that it's actually quite common. This time made with butter and leeks, which smells amazing while cooking. I regret all the previous times I've disregarded potato and leek soup now. Leeks are amazing. The greens recipe is via Bon Appetit, and made with literally something labeled greens at Sainsbury plus some beet stems that add nice color. I've also come to appreciate a softish boiled egg with a drop of soy sauce, actually liking it more than fried eggs right now but that's moreso because I've consistently overcooked my fried egg's yolk by basting it too long with hot oil :(
Together these three components makes such a comforting supper. Perfect pairing with heart-warming manga.


I've also been learning more about cheese now that I'm in this historically cheese producing region (cheddar). Before I go spoil myself with the genuine farmhouse cheddars, I'm liking the cheap supermarket stuff. Snack of the month goes to apple and cheddar slices:


Lastly, rare times when I'm drinking green tea, this is a mao feng:

Because tea from friends are always nice ^^

29 October 2017


How rare it is for me to be in town during golden hour AND on a clear day:

I do wish that I lived closer to this part of town, but am thankful for the (significantly) cheaper rent at my residence. Plus all the walking, which really isn't all that much since Bath is tiny, is good for my health.

28 October 2017


A couple days ago where Bath *finally* had good looking clouds during sunset. Once in a whole month!

27 October 2017


Daily views during lecture weeks:

26 October 2017

‘cause nothing is real, only entertainers here

Listening to Epic High's new album, but I'll save those for another day as my music queue is long. Here's another great collaboration with Nell:

Fashion / aesthetics have changed a lot in 10 years haha.

25 October 2017


I feel quite wise that I brought a good portion of my herbs and spices over. Alas I didn't bring enough and had to resort to buying more. It sounds like a complaint, but food shopping is my favourite kind of shopping hue hue. My latest haul is from Spice Mountain, but Penzey's remains my favourite since they come in glass jars instead of plastic.

Current state of my herbs and spices:

Aside from the inexcusable lack of sichuan peppers, this covers most dishes that I make, which currently consists mostly of soups and curries. I got an extra large bag of black pepper so I have no fear of running out. Tellicherry black pepper is also how I vet spice stores, although the local Toronto spice shop didn't specify which type they carried but those unnamed peppers turned out fine.